Have you always been interested in politics?
Yes, I studied politics at A-level so I was always interested. I also remember visiting Stormont and Westminster when I was a school. At Stormont, I got to meet Monica McWilliams which was great! I also had the opportunity to get a picture outside Downing Street with Tony Blair on my trip to Westminster.
At university, I studied to be a teacher and I focused on RE and Maths so I didn’t get to teach anything political until I began teaching citizenship, which I love.
What inspired you to get into politics?
I was really unhappy with the collapse of the executive here. There was no government for over three years because the two parties couldn’t agree. This really made me want to get involved with the UUP. For me, UUP are a party that wants Northern Ireland to work. I have also been really impressed with how Robin Swan has handled the pandemic. So last May I asked to volunteer for the party in Lagan Valley, not knowing that I would actually be asked to stand in this election.
So you were asked to stand? What did the process of getting on the ballot look like for you?
When I was volunteering for the party I spoke to Tim Mitchell who put me in touch with Robbie Butler, the deputy leader of the party. When I met Robbie he said he could see that I was passionate and asked if I would consider running in this election or in the local election in 2023.
When Robbie asked me to stand I went to talk to a few friends and family first, just to think about it. One of my friends said that this door has been opened for me and I should definitely take it. A few other friends encouraged me to take the opportunity so I did!
Jill McAuley who has been a great help to me also said to me; If this was a pupil or one of your children you would tell them to take the opportunity so why would you tell yourself any different. That really helped me and is great advice!
How do you think your career as a teacher will help you with your political career, should you be elected?
Yes, so I am currently a teacher in a Secondary School and I teach RE, Maths and Learning for Life and Work (LLW). LLW is the study of employability skills, social development and citizenship. So for example my two year 12 classes at the moment are studying communities and how to help communities by creating community projects. They are also learning about the Good Friday Agreement and democracy. I love teaching this subject and being able to discuss social issues in class.
Being a teacher means that I know the education system. I know the troubles and opportunities that both pupils and parents face. I also see the mental health issues that many of our young people are experiencing. I really want to work to help students who have mental health issues.
My background in education will definitely help me tackle these issues.
Are there any political issues that you are particularly passionate about?
Mental health is something I am really passionate about. I have seen pupils suffer from mental health issues and we have children in primary school here suffering. It’s really sad to see kids so young know terms like depression. I would really like to see teachers get better training in terms of counselling and being more aware of how to improve their pupil’s mental health. I definitely want to see better strategies and counsellors in schools
I have suffered from mental health issues myself and I want pupils to know that it’s ok to find it tough sometimes.
What has your experience as a candidate be like?
My experience has been positive so far. I have had really positive conversations and experiences. I have had a chance to visit community centres and a cooperative community and great organizations like GLOW NI. It is great to see all this good work.
Social media, I know, can be very negative. I don’t understand why people decide to be so negative online. I see the negative stuff that Naomi Long, Carla Lockhart or Robin Swan have to deal with and it is totally uncalled for.
Do you think being a woman will be beneficial to your role as an MLA, should you be elected?
Women definitely have experiences that men don’t have. I think women are more empathetic and understanding. Women are also good listeners and we try to fix problems and find solutions which I think are great!
We can bring something a little different to politics because of our experiences.
Finally, what advice would you give to another woman that wants to get into politics?
Just go for it! Get involved. That is what I did. I joined the party that I thought was the best for me. Which is UUP. Take any opportunity that you are offered because as Jill told me don’t give yourself different advice than you would give a friend or your child.
If you are interested in getting into politics or are even just curious about how it all work get in touch with 50:50 NI at firstname.lastname@example.org